What in the World?


Yesterday I had the pleasure of visiting the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. Right off the elevator on the 3rd floor there’s an interactive video presentation of What in the World?, a 1951 Penn Museum-sponsored and produced show that highlighted their collections in a popular game show format. Hosted by then- Museum Director Dr. Froelich Rainey, each show featured two academics and one special celebrity guest. (Vincent Price appeared on more than one episode!)

Dr. Rainey was an anthropologist and teacher, who later worked as an Archaeologist for the University of Pennsylvania. Rainey saw the post-War roles of Museums as that of teaching tools rather than closed academic repositories. Bringing people to Museums proved difficult, so he instead decided to bring his museum to the people through the new advent of popular television.

The exhibit, created by New York-based artist Pablo Helguera, features an Introduction to the show and Rainey [which YOU can view by clicking on the image above] as well as several museum artifacts. Each artifact corresponds to video footage of the show’s ‘contestants’ trying to decipher its ages and historical significance.

Several episodes of What in the World? have been digitally archived and are available for viewing  at the Internet Archive.

Until visiting, I was unfamiliar with Penn Museum and it’s contributions to the community.  This introduction to Rainey, his achievements as Museum Director, and his television program aimed at open, entertaining education provided an excellent stepping-off point to the rest of the exhibits!



Online launch: Queen Victoria’s personal journals

Queen Victoria’s personal journals have been launched online after a collaboration between Oxford’s Bodleian Library, the Royal Archives and information company ProQuest.

The collaboration has made the private records of one of the world’s most influential public figures available for public access for the first time.

The journals span Victoria’s lifetime and comprise 141 volumes numbering over 43,000 pages. They have never been published in their entirety and were previously only accessible by appointment at the Royal Archives in Windsor Castle.


“This initiative is a highly engaging and significant partnership across three organisations for the benefit of public and scholarly access to fascinating historical documents, and has been made possible with the support and generosity of Oxford benefactors The Polonsky Foundation and The Zvi and Ofra Meitar Family Fund,” Dr Sarah Thomas, Bodley’s Librarian said in a statement.

No links to the collection itself were included in the Independent Business Times article. According to a similar press release form LibraryJournal, however, the collection can be viewed at http://www.queenvictoriasjournals.org/home.do .

Friends of Canada, free information, and public access–help the LAC!

From a BoingBoing reader (via ):

Library and Archives Canada’s collection is being decentralized and scattered across the country, often to private institutions, which will limit access, making research difficult or next impossible.

Read more about the decisions that will affect the Libraries and Archives of Canada via the links below and find out what you can do to help!

Any Library or Archive in need, is a friend indeed!

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Peanuts and Processing

The Outer Banks History Center of Manteo, N.C. just posted a few of their newly processed and encoded archival collections. This one, which I find particularly interesting, contains letters from The Edenton Peanut Company.  Here is the amazingly interesting and heart-warming abstract (and a picture of a peanut for good measure):

The Edenton Peanut Company was established in 1909 by members of the Wood and
Shepherd families. By the 1930s, Edenton was the largest peanut market in the state and the
second largest in the world. During World War II, Mr. James Wood of Edenton served as the
president of the Edenton Peanut Company. Wood, for whom the company’s flagship product
“Jimbo’s Jumbos” was named, shipped five-pound bags of peanuts to every service member
from Chowan County he could locate. Many wrote thank-you letters back to the company―
some to Mr. Wood, some to other company officers, and some just to the company.
The collection contains thank you letters written in June and July 1943 from men and women
stationed at bases across the United States. The letters contain descriptions of service life,
geography, and social interactions of the time.


If this doesn’t make you want to read these letters, I don’t know what will.

Peanuts! And home-town pride! 

Before Splinter trained those Turtles, he worked for the City

freshwater2006's Flickr via CreativeCommons use

Last week Larry Weimer wrote a great blog post for the Brooklyn Historical Society, in which he documented a major BHS processing  project: the records of the Brooklyn Bureau of Sewers (ARC.235).

Larry explains a bit about the collection and it’s benefits to the community:

The bulk of the collection consists of the documents compiled by the Bureau of Sewers principally for the purpose of establishing the tax levy to be assessed on those connecting to newly-laid sewer lines from the late 19th century to about 1960. So in addition to information about the expanding sewerage infrastructure in Brooklyn, the collection also includes documents concerning property ownership and maps showing blocks, lots, streets, and sewer paths. In short, the collection can be useful to house and neighborhood researchers.

He’s not kidding either. According to the final tallies:

…The collection holds over 50 feet of documents sprawling across 109 oversize manuscript boxes, record cartons and flat boxes. The variety of material and the changes in sewerage administrative structures over the course of a century also make for a complex collection. We hope to enhance the description with a block level index to the content to make the collection more efficient to use.

The city’s history is one that may never stop evolving. The city-beneath-the-city is no exception, and provides another lifetime of research and discovery. Read more of Larry’s processing overview and/or view the collection’s on-line guide!